Pretoria - In a new turn of events, the High Court of Malawi has ruled that South Africa-based witnesses in the extradition process against charismatic preacher Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary will have to travel to Malawi to give evidence.
The superior court on Monday overturned last year’s ruling by the Chief Resident Magistrate in Lilongwe, Madalitso Chimwanza, who ruled that witnesses could give evidence virtually, while in South Africa, before a South African court.
In his ruling, seen by IOL, Judge Bruno Macdonald Kalemba ruled that “the witnesses to the extradition hearing will testify physically in the presence of the chief resident magistrate here in Malawi on a date and time to be appointed by the court”.
Reacting to Kalemba’s ruling, Bushiri said he had been speaking out on how he was unfairly treated in South Africa, before he fled to Malawi.
“The High Court in Malawi has ruled that witnesses, to be specific, those that arrested us and recorded cases against us be physically present in Malawi for cross-examination by our lawyers,” said Bushiri.
“When we came to Malawi, we spoke about how unfairly we were being treated in South Africa. We had opened cases of extortion against some of the prosecutors who arrested us a year before the same accused officers arrested us.”
Bushiri, who had a massive following at his Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church headquartered in Pretoria at the time, said he survived assassination attempts in South Africa.
“We also survived assassination attempts after we opened cases against some individuals in the Republic of South Africa and they have records of these cases in the police and judicial systems which we believe to be vital in our case.
“We welcome this fair ruling and we look forward to meeting them in court where we will exercise our right to cross-examine them for a fair trial. Thank you everyone for your continued support. We will continue to pray for you as you pray for us,” he said.
Last year, the family of one of the women who made rape allegations against Bushiri vowed she would not travel to Lilongwe, even if the court in that country insisted she had to testify physically in the ongoing extradition hearing.
The woman’s name had been withheld to protect her.
Apart from the rape allegations, Bushiri and his wife Mary are wanted in South Africa on allegations of fraud and money-laundering relating to an investment scheme valued at more than R100 million.
The ECG church leaders were arrested in South Africa but, after being granted bail, fled to Malawi, claiming they were not safe in their host country.
The Bushiris were each released on R200 000 bail by the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on November 4, 2020, after their arrest in October that year.